Artist Spotlight: Bonnie Lee

Recycled 1930's  Steampunk Key NecklaceMeet Bonnie Lee. Bonnie is a painter, wire sculptor, and jewelry maker. She thrives as a jewelry artist because the medium allows her to express herself like no other medium does. Her work combines found pieces with wire and gem stones, resulting in pieces that will be family heirlooms. This is completely appropriate since her jewelry business, The FamiLee Jewels, is a true family affair involving three generations of Lees. 

Pressed penny Copper bangle bracelet: Fruit Bat

Studio/Business Name: The FamiLee Jewels

Artist/Owner’s Name: Bonnie Lee
Where is your studio based? Malta, New York

How long have you been creating? I have always been a creative sort. Cooking, crocheting, knitting, scrapbooking, and decorative painting are among the things that I enjoy doing. In 2006 I took a jewelry class at our local community center and fell in love with beads. I took 2 more classes, devoured every book, DVD, and magazine that I could find and couldn’t stop making jewelry. I was possessed. Using this art form, for the first time, I am able to express my own ideas rather than follow someone elses directions.

Briefly describe what you make & your process. I create jewelry using recycled objects, fossils, agate slices, antique cabinet hardware, and broken vintage jewelry. Tarnish, rust and blemishes are all welcome in my studio. We call that dirt and grime patina in this household! I combine these found objects with brass, copper or sterling silver wire and findings using only cold connections such as wire wrapping, riveting, staples and prongs.

Why do you create? It is impossible for me not to create. My brain is wired that way. Whether at work, in the garden, or in the studio I am always looking for a way to make something better.

What inspires you? Finding a great piece of salvage, an unusual button or a lonely earring. I scour garage sales, salvage yards, flea markets and antique stores looking for tiny raw materials. My latest line of jewelry is made from pressed pennies. We were visiting the Intrepid Museum in NYC and making the pennies as souvenirs when it struck me how perfect they were for jewelry. I have turned them into rings, bracelets and necklaces. One of my pressed penny bracelet designs is featured in the June/July issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry. It showcases pennies from Cooperstown.

What are your long-term art goals? I want to continue grow in my craft. Developing my own unique style has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life.

Do you sell your work, and if so, where? I sell my work on etsy  I also sell at local art and craft shows including the new Sunday Malta Market. There is a schedule of our appearances on our website at

Advice for other beginning artists/artisans? Keep doing what makes you happy. Working at your craft will improve your skills and you will develop your own style. If you plan to turn your art into a business be prepared to work hard at it.

Favorite thing about being an artist? Losing myself in the process.


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